Hurricane Maria

Courtesy Purpose in Paradise

The U.S. Virgin Islands are finally rebounding after suffering two major hurricanes back-to-back. One tourism innovation may have played a part in that.

Hurricane Maria was the rainiest storm known to have hit Puerto Rico, and climate change is partly to blame, according to a new study.

The worst rain fell in the mountainous central part of Puerto Rico, from the northwest to the southeast. That part of the island is rainy under normal conditions. In an average year, it gets more than 150 inches of rain.

When Maria hit in 2017, it dropped nearly a quarter of that annual rainfall in just one day.

There are few things Democrats and Republicans in Congress usually agree on, but one of them is rushing federal money to victims of natural disasters.

That sentiment crumbled this week when the Senate failed to advance two separate disaster funding bills. Both included bipartisan funding to help relieve damage across the country from flooding, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes. But a fight over assistance for Puerto Rico has derailed getting a deal on the entire package.

Mabel Román Padró wishes she hadn't had to sue Puerto Rico's government.

But because she did, it translated an important report about Hurricane Maria into Spanish so she and most of the island's residents could read it.

"Access to information has always been hard here," Román said.

Kaitlin Hall / WUFT

On Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico, destroying nearly everything in its path and cutting off the island from the rest of the world.

A year later, the storm is long gone but the memories of near-death experiences and horrific suffering remain fresh for Puerto Ricans.

“We’re going to die here,” Pablo Soto Soto recalls his wife telling him as the storm knocked out their windows and ripped off their roof in Yabucoa.

Read the whole series: Life After Maria, a WUFT Special

Sam Turken / WLRN

Standing alongside Puerto Rican community leaders in Miami on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he didn't want to talk politics on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria's landfall in Puerto Rico. 

But that wish gradually gave way as the Democrat from Florida condemned President Donald Trump for disputing the death toll from the hurricane and called on the federal government to do more to rebuild the island. 

UCF Establishes Research Hub For Puerto Rico

Sep 19, 2018

As Puerto Rico recovers from Hurricane Maria and evacuees from the island settle in Central Florida, the University of Central Florida has created a Puerto Rico Research Hub designed to identify solutions to challenges and issues affecting the community.

It's far from over in the Carolinas, and President Trump is on the way.

As the remnants of Hurricane Florence roll north along the Appalachian Trail, the floodwaters deepen and the death toll rises. The destruction will remain for longer than anyone knows.

And for the victims, the first days of desperation are giving way to despair.

That is why the president is fitting in a visit to the stricken region on Wednesday.

Courtesy Ernesto Morales

President Trump astonished people across the country last week when he denied 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria. He insisted (falsely) that Democrats inflated the death toll to make him “look bad.”

For Ernesto Morales, Trump’s tweets exacerbated his awful memories of the storm, which demolished Puerto Rico a year ago this Thursday.

Alejandra Martinez

Ivan Nieves and David Torres, a couple from Puerto Rico, used to own a restaurant, hair salon and a boutique in San Juan. But one year ago, Hurricane Maria seriously damaged the business, leaving them unable to work. 

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

President Trump denied the death toll of nearly 3,000 from hurricanes Maria and Irma, which swept across Puerto Rico a year ago, in a series of tweets Thursday morning.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," he tweeted. "When I left the island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths."

Trump then blamed Democrats for the figures, "to make me look as bad as possible."

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

During an Oval Office briefing on preparations for Hurricane Florence, a reporter asked President Trump if there were lessons to be learned from the widely criticized FEMA response to Hurricane Maria last year in Puerto Rico. Trump's response? In short: Nothing to see here.

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, chef José Andrés and the groups he founded, World Central Kitchen and Chefs for Puerto Rico, sprung into action.

"We began serving hospitals, because the doctors and the nurses — nobody was feeding them," Andrés says of the initial effort.

But then calls started pouring in from places that were hours away from San Juan. Andrés says the message was clear: "The island is hungry. With one restaurant alone, we have not enough."

It's not easy packing your bags and saying goodbye to your family after a Category 5 hurricane has wiped out what you call home, leaving so many places — tied so closely with childhood memories and routine — bare and unusable.

Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico's governor updated the island's official death toll for victims of Hurricane Maria on Tuesday, hours after independent researchers from George Washington University released a study estimating the hurricane caused 2,975 deaths in the six months following the storm.

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